Howard Duff Cause of Death: A Look at the Life and Death of the American Actor

Howard Duff was an American actor who was born on November 24, 1913, in Charleston, Washington. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in Seattle in 1932 and began acting in school plays after he was cut from the school basketball team. Duff worked locally in Seattle-area theater until entering the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. He was eventually assigned to their radio service, and announced re-broadcasts prepared for the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS). In this role, he served as the announcer for the drama Suspense, dated March 16, 1943.

 Early Career

Duff’s most memorable radio role was as Dashiell Hammett’s private eye Sam Spade in The Adventures of Sam Spade (1946–1950). With his TV and film career starting to take hold, he ultimately left the program in 1950 at the start of its final season; Stephen Dunne took over the voice role of Spade. Duff was signed to a long-term contract with Universal, and made his film debut alongside Burt Lancaster as an inmate in 1947’s Brute Force. The movie was produced by Mark Hellinger and directed by Jules Dassin, who gave Duff a bigger role in their next film, The Naked City (1948). He subsequently reunited with Lancaster for the family drama All My Sons (also 1948), based on the play of the same name by Arthur Miller. More substantial roles soon followed, with Duff taking the lead in numerous Westerns and films noir including Illegal Entry, Red Canyon, Johnny Stool Pigeon, Calamity Jane and Sam Bass (all 1949); Spy Hunt, Shakedown and Woman in Hiding (all 1950). 

 Personal Life

Duff had a tempestuous relationship with actress Ava Gardner in the late 1940s. In October 1951, he married Ida Lupino. Following his marriage to Lupino, Duff made a pilot for a new radio series, The McCoy. In 1990, shortly before his death, Duff made his final acting appearances in the TV series Midnight Caller and The Golden Girls, and the film Too Much Sun.

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